On SAGE Insight: School variation in offending


Article title: School variation in offending: A macro-level strain approach

From European Journal of Criminology


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This study analyses the variance in crime between schools from a contextual strain perspective applied in Stockholm. Since the millennium, Western criminology has been characterized by a focus on individual-level explanatory models, a trend that in a number of countries, Sweden included, has occurred in parallel with increases both in levels of inequality and in social differences between groups of individuals.

The data analysed in this study are primarily drawn from the Stockholm School Survey (SSS) of 2014. The SSS is a large-scale school questionnaire survey conducted every two years by the City of Stockholm. The final study population is comprised of 5274 students distributed over a total of 90 schools. The study contributes to the existing literature in this area by focusing specifically on the interplay between macro-components of the theory (aggregate levels of negative emotions and deprivation) and the individual (subcultural) mechanisms that are assumed to potentially condition the relationship between contextual factors and offending. The study contributes to the existing literature in this area by focusing specifically on the interplay between macro-components of the theory (aggregate levels of negative emotions and deprivation) and the individual (subcultural) mechanisms that are assumed to potentially condition the relationship between contextual factors and offending.

Firstly, the between-school variance in crime does not differ greatly between the two outcome variables employed in the study. Secondly, compared with the more subjective indicators of strain that were tested in this study, the deprivation index appears to constitute a more prominent school-level factor in relation to both outcome variables. Attending a deprived school is associated with higher levels of self-reported offending among students, irrespective of the students’ individual-level characteristics. However, the school-level measure of anger was found to be significantly related to both violent and general offending, even when controls for individual-level characteristics were included, whereas the school measure of life dissatisfaction was related only to violent offending. School-contextual negative affect seems to predict offending particularly among students with values conducive to crime. Since the 1990s, the Swedish school system has been characterized by a substantial focus on the individual, with the emphasis being directed at the control mechanisms that schools are assumed to be able to mobilize for the purposes of crime prevention. Thus there is a need for a more context-based view of the significance of the school system for crime and other social problems.

 

Abstract

This study employs Macro-level Strain Theory (MST) as a framework to provide a better understanding of the way in which the structural and social context of Stockholm schools covaries with self-reported violent and general offending. The findings contribute to the literature in this area by directing a special focus at the interplay between the theory’s macro-level components and some individual-level mechanisms that may be assumed to condition the effect of strain on offending. Using multi-level data on 5274 students nested in 90 schools in the City of Stockholm, the study notes significant contextual effects of anger and life dissatisfaction on offending. School-level deprivation appears to have a confounding effect on the relationship between school-contextual negative affect and offending. Further, school-contextual anger influences some individuals more than others. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Read the article in full here

Article details
School variation in offending: A macro-level strain approach
Julia Sandahl
First Published December 31, 2018 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/1477370818819729
From European Journal of Criminology



     
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